COVID-19 has turned our world bottom side up. The coronavirus pandemic now affects everyone, everywhere. The crisis has revealed the staunch integrity of society, while at the same time unveiling our most dangerous weaknesses. Chief among those hazardous flaws is the propensity for our leadership to perform in knee-jerk fashion.
News from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Monday tells of a final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass, which is a digital health pass designed to support the safe reopening of borders. The news begs the obvious question; “Why not before the first reopening for summer vacations?” Why were these officials not working proactively to save lives and billions of euros early on?
June 24, 2020 – IATA Proposes Alternatives to Quarantine. Before airports reopened and welcomed millions of travelers around the world during a pandemic, IATA was suggesting that sick and dying travelers stay home, along with other obvious measures. Back then they released this:
“Safely restarting the economy is a priority. That includes travel and tourism. Quarantine measures may play a role in keeping people safe, but they will also keep many unemployed….”
Around the same time, IATA director of passenger and facilitation Pierre Charbonneau gave an interview to BTN. In the Q&A the official’s narrative mirrored every economist, travel minister, and hotel owner in the world:
“…to put back a passenger process that will restore confidence in passengers flying and give governments some reassurance to relax the border restrictions.”
The first priority, for every bean counter on this planet, was to get passengers back into the air, into their hotel room, and headed for all those things that promote the GDP of every nation. Second priority was always, making damn sure nobody else died of complications from COVID-19.
July 28th, after many countries had already reopened their borders to tourists, IATA calls for uniformity, testing, and again warns countries against quarantine. The organization also suggested that airlines or other private entities should not be responsible for developing a holistic process, but that governments should foot the bill and the responsibility.
By mid-August, IATA and everybody else knew there were big problems with their genius reopening plans. Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe offered this:
“It is desperately worrying to see a further decline in prospects for air travel this year, and the knock-on impact for employment and prosperity.”
I swear to God, these people need to hire a PR agency. Money, money, money, money, and prosperity, followed by money, money, and finally, at long last, safety. The problem for all these bean counters was less revenue, with a scant mention here or there of cases beginning to go out of control again. The story for IATA and many travel and tourism entities was about “lingering border restrictions” and not about absolute proactive preventatives. As if this were the lingering disease killing hundreds of thousands.
August 18th, in the middle of many vacation restarts, IATA shows no indication they are being proactive in dealing with the potential for a second wave of COVID-19. The same rhetoric and advice arrives via the release of IATA’s comprehensive checklist for airlines. Again, the question arises; “Why was there no comprehensive checklist available when IATA suggested reopening?” Certainly, such a checklist must have been needed when Greece and other countries reopened to tourists.
Late August brings the IATA and all the other business-focused thought brokers crying coordination, coordination, coordination. But why were borders reopened in the first place, if there was no coordinated effort in place at the time? Now the lack of coordination between governments and private entities is the scapegoat. All those dead from a contact made with a traveling COVID host can rest easy knowing a little more coordination (and proactive effort) might have saved them.
September 16, 2020, IATA is broadcasting that quarantines are “hampering the restart” of aviation in Africa and the Middle East. The second wave is starting to go full bore, and the airline industry seems oblivious. Here is a quote from Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East:
“Mandatory quarantine measures stop people from traveling. We understand that governments’ priority is on protecting the well–being of their citizens. Quarantine destroys livelihoods. Testing is an alternative method that will also save travel and tourism jobs.”
Money, money, money, and at the long end of every narrative, keeping human beings well and alive. The problem with corporate and big NGO speak is that it all comes out sounding the same. Like tabulating robots focused on red and black ink.
At the end of the day, IATA and every other organization hell-bent on restarting tourism no-matter-what, ended up restructuring over COVID-19. Last month, the airline experts laid-off workers, froze hiring, and even their executives had to take pay cuts. One has to wonder what might have happened had these businesses and organizations acted to preempt the second wave of COVID-19.
What if IATA had suggested more restrictions in countries and for airlines, instead of fewer? I wonder if the second wave of infections could have been totally prevented had there been a “coordinated” effort to kill the virus first, and recoup money second? What if Greece, for instance, had just closed down to international travel for all of 2020? Would that announcement have brought acquiescence by the public? No one can know for sure. It seems more likely that Greeks and other world citizens would have taken COVID more seriously if the leadership had.
IATA, all I can say for you guys is “Shame on you” for not firing the knee-jerking leadership, so that your working employees could keep their jobs in a COVID-free winter. That’s my opinion on that.